Bookish Thursdays: Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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I am a first generation Canadian born to Colombian parents with a long Colombian ancestry. I grew up eating arepas, sancocho, frijoles, chicharron and aguacate. My favourite fruits were mango, papaya and pineapple. I went to my junior kindergarten class speaking Spanish because that’s all we spoke at home. I knew that being Colombian in Toronto years and years ago was strange. Most of my friends were of European descent and when I spoke Spanish with my parents they all assumed we were from Spain. Colombia was foreign and different and let’s face it, it did not have the best reputation.

(Nearly) every person we came across would mention the word cocaine as soon as they heard we were Colombian, followed closely by drug cartels and Pablo Escobar. My culture and people were smeared by the actions of world-class criminals and the world media that focused on and sensationalised them. My parents, and their cohorts, would retaliate with Colombia is also the land of coffee, emeralds, fruit and a rich history of music and folklore. Gabriel Garcia Marquez is Colombian. Colombians are a loving, friendly people. Resourceful, determined and above all, passionate. To which people would nod and say “Really?” but in their eyes you could tell they were still thinking, cocaine. Sometimes, however, it worked and we would feel vindicated that at least one more person saw Colombia and Colombians in a different light.


I grew up amidst people who are very proud of their heritage and defiantly challenge the world with many proofs as to why our Colombia is so much more than the illegal drug trade. And, always, those proofs included the great Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

I heard his name bandied about in my home or amidst my family when we visited Colombia. As a child he was beyond my reach. I was always interested in the writings of the literary giant but didn’t begin my journey into his worlds until I became an IB teacher.

I quickly learned why Garcia Marquez was one of literature’s greats. I’ve only read three of his novels, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera. Each one gripped me and I was fooled into believing that writing is so very easy because his stories are seamless. His narration appears effortless. And, that is how you know that he was genius at his craft.

He learned his narrative style from his grandmother who told him fantastical tales with a deadpan expression and that is how he wrote. One has no choice but to simply be swept into his narratives, be immersed in his descriptive, yet succinct, attention to detail, and allow him to take you on a splendid trip.

Fortunately, I live in a Toronto that is vastly different from the one in which I grew up. Our city (and surrounding suburbs) is home to people from all over the world. Being Colombian is no longer strange or weird. Our language, food and music has become more mainstream. Other famous Colombians are showing the world that Colombia is beautiful and so much more than it’s difficult past. We no longer have to defend our pride in our country.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez is fundamental to that pride. I am saddened that he is gone – that no more of Gabo’s stories will be published. His legacy is a beautiful and inspirational one – for Colombians and all people. A boy from the northernmost tip of his country, a remote and hot area of Colombia became a Nobel Prize Author by giving shape to a new literary genre. He did much for Colombia’s image when it was at its lowest. He did much for me as a teacher, reader and writer. Thank you Gabo and rest in peace.

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Books I’d Like to Re-read

I read a review of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility today at The Bookshelf of Emily J.  It was a re-read for her and she “yawned” through the novel even though she remained aware of the importance of Austen’s work in terms of women’s issues in her time.

That got me thinking…would I agree or disagree with Emily on this?  How would I read books now that I loved in my younger years?

It’s not like my TBR list isn’t long enough, but I’d like to plunge into these books for a second (perhaps third) time and see if they will impact me the same way as they did when I first read them.  In no particular order:

I loved this book.  I had a journal full of quotes from Ellison’s work.  The protagonist was so utterly lost and trying to find himself.  He had no idea where he belonged…the journey of self discovery…a very real journey for most people in their early twenties.  I wonder if I’d read it with the same passion now that I feel “found”.

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After reading Emily J’s review, I would add this to my list.  I didn’t love Sense and Sensibility as much I loved Pride and Prejudice.  I wonder if Austen’s works can still work their magic on me.

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This book left me confused yet enthralled.  Garcia Marquez’s writing is unbelievable. I almost feel the need to read this novel again so I can absorb the beauty of the author’s writing, hopefully understand it and maybe, I’ll still love it.

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I really hated Estella and Miss Haversham.  Would I feel the same way today?


What books from your younger reading days would you reread?

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WWW Wednesdays asks three questions every week for WWW Wednesdays.  Check out the blog for MizB’s responses.  I think it’s a good, quick way to keep readers updated on what’s going on in my reading world.  Here are my answers:

What are you currently reading?  Graceling by Kristin Cashore.  After so many encouraging words about the book and great reviews, I had to start it.  And, it’s been an awesome read so far.  Also, I’m on page 130 of 229 in The Power of Now.  I love the book and the concepts presented – I just find I need time to really absorb it.

What did you recently finish?   Love in the Time of Cholera by Garbriel Garcia Marquez.  Check out review HERE.

What do you think you’ll read next?  I hope to continue with Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.

Wanna play along?  Reply with your answers or answer them at

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez


Summer Read #1 Complete! Woo-hoo!  And, another Back to the Classics Challenge 2012 novel read.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez makes writing feel so damn easy!  He swept me up in romance and love, and shook me with his portrayal of aging.  Do you expect anything less from a Nobel Prize winning author?

In the beginning, the romance between Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza draws sympathy.  It is understandable why an illegitimate poor boy wouldn’t dare approach a young lady of the upper class in a time where class lines were strictly adhered to.  I felt sorry for Florentino Ariza, and though aware of the plot, a tiny part of me still hoped that they could a find a way to make their love work.  Fermina Daza comes to understand that she does not have the power to fight social norms and marries a rich, respectable doctor.  That should’ve been the end, right?  Nope.

Florentino Ariza becomes an astute stalker.  He keeps his distance, but is always aware of Fermina Daza’s life – which is not difficult since she and her husband, Dr. Juvenal Urbino, are at the forefront of their social class.  In the meantime, Florentino Ariza improves his social station and while maintaining his love for Fermina, and other women.

This guy is unbelievable!  He is so desperate for the love of one woman that he spends his life feeding off the emotions and bodies of other women. He satiates his body and claims to love the women he is with, yet lives under the illusion that his one true love is, Fermina Daza.  His goal is to outlive her husband so they can finally be together.


**spoiler alert in next paragraph** (might wanna skip this paragraph if you want to read the novel)

Most of his exploits are ironically charming.  However, there are two occasions when I found him utterly revolting.  The first time involves the murder of one of his mistresses by her husband upon discovering her infidelity.  The second is when, in pedophile fashion, he grooms and courts his fourteen year-old relative.  He was in his sixties.  I was flabbergasted that his appetite had no limit and so disgusted.  How f*****g dare he???  And, he actually convinces himself that he loves her in order to alleviate his guilt.  Ugh.

One other thing that left me disconcerted: the reaction of Florentino Ariza’s many lovers.  Almost all of them were dying of love for him.  He had 622 sexual liaisons…and nearly none of them were left scorned.  Almost any one of them would gladly receive him back into her bed.  Even the teenager…Were they that weak?  Are we that weak, that a few romantic words will have us on our back and eradicate our common sense?  I don’t think so.  In this case I beg to differ with Garcia Marquez’s choices in his portrayal of women.

Then again, perhaps this is all a part of the use of magic realism.  Reality that is distorted…or, perhaps, reality that is real and makes us so uncomfortable that we need to label it as distorted…

The few women of strength in the novel were those that did not sleep with him: his mother, Transito Ariza; Fermina Daza (who succumbs in her seventies); and, Leona Cassiani, his assistant.  They were great characters of intelligence, fortitude and pride.  Interesting that he only preys on the weak.  Even with Fermina Daza, he wins her over when she is in mourning for the loss of her husband…

courtesy: the secondgreenrevolution.

In any case, this is a sweeping look at a country and a city during a time of great change.  I loved reading all about the geography of Colombia and talking to my mother about the places that are mentioned in the book.  The effects of the many wars suffered by the country at the hands of the Liberals and Conservatives made me think of stories of my grandfather and uncle having to leave home in the middle of the night to hide in the mountains because the Conservatives were raiding for Liberals, while my grandmother huddled in a room with her five daughters (one of them, my mother) praying for their safety.  A frightening and violent time.

Love in the Time of Cholera challenged my views on love, sexuality, aging and brought to life many moments in Colombian and world history.  It is eloquent, simple, honest and its characters are richly textured.  Definitely a worthy read.

What novels have you read that stayed with you and challenged you?

Is Aging Really That Bad?

We live in a youth-obsessed world.  Young matters.  Age matters.  We want to look 25 when we’re 30 and didn’t you know, 50 is the new 40.

I used to think I would grow old gracefully.  I scoffed at the idea of botox, peels or any other treatment for my face…because I had the face of youth.  Now, as I mature, I realize my opinions on these matters are changing…maybe one day I will be willing to sacrifice the use of my eyebrows for a smooth forehead or the width of my smile for smooth cheeks and expressionless eyes…maybe not.

But, aging is not an issue only of the surface.  It goes deep.  Deep into our muscles, bones, synapses, memories…and plays evil tricks.

I wasn’t expecting for so much of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera to focus so much on aging, what we feel as we age, what we fear and how it affects us.  Here are some passages on aging in the book:

“…men blossomed in a kind of autumnal youth, they seemed more dignified with their first gray hairs, they became witty and seductive, above all in the eyes of young women while their withered wives had to clutch at their arms so as not to trip over their own shadows.” (256)  The double-standard of aging – men get better with age, women don’t – was alive and well in the era of the book’s story (turn of last century).  Age is not wise, revered or well worn.  It is cruel and burdensome, especially for women.

“A few years later, however, the husbands fell without warning down the precipice of humiliating aging in body and soul, and then it was their wives who recovered and had to lead them by the arm as if they were blind men on charity…” (256)  Any advantage men have over women is yanked away quickly, according to this novel, and they are cruelly left with a decrepit body.  Age makes you dependent upon another.

“Florentino Ariza had seen himself reflected so often in that mirror that he was never as afraid of death as he was of reaching that humiliating age when he would have to be led on a woman’s arm.” (257) All sense of free will, self-sufficiency is lost.

Have I thoroughly depressed you yet?  I’m depressed…if that’s where I’m headed then bring on the botox!  (At least I’ll be wrinkle free when I’m tripping over my own shadow).

Seriously though, I wasn’t expecting this kind of portrayal about aging…the last novel I read about an old woman was Margaret Laurence’s The Stone Angel – and, for all it’s literary merits, it pretty much killed any interest I had in an older protagonist.  Robertson Davies’ Fifth Business shows the aging of characters – but, more of the psychological effect that our youth has on our old age.  This novel describes the the fear of physical aging and it makes sense since it is about (a supposed) love that lasts half a century (more or less).

Old age consumes bodies and minds…but, in none of these characters, does it consume their spirit.

Fermina Daza remains honourable, rigid, enraged.  Dr. Juvenal Urbino is true to his meticulous perfectionism.  Florentino Ariza devotes himself to love in any form.

Age might do away with who we are physically, but isn’t it the spirit that matters most?

What are your views on aging?  Have you come across any characters that have challenged those views for you?